culled from GUARDIAN, March 6, 2005
Now that the National Political Reform Conference has convened, one would wish to believe that the conferees are aware of the enormous burden of their responsibility. Their responsibility is to reinvent and reconstruct Nigeria. In other words to forge the unity and integration of Nigeria. Unity connotes a social and political process. Integration is organic; anthromorphic. Notionally at least, you have to morph the people together. Integration is deeper, and can be the basis of unity. Nigeria needs both. But we should aim at full integration. Unity will automatically follow.
All this is familiar enough, but it is the one thing that has eluded us all of the 45 years of our Independence. It will elude us for the next 45 years, as already the gear of this novel Conference on which much hope is placed is in a confrontational mode. The confrontation will intensify, as the "jaw-jaw" keeps on intensifying as the Conference progresses. It would not need a Professor of Political Science to conjecture that the outcome of this process is catastrophic, if it is allowed to continue.
And it will continue. There is no way of stopping it. One would hope for a reprieve in the parallel Conferences being proposed. But the outcome of these Conferences will be stillborn, just as the famous Bala Usman and Segun Osoba Minority Report of the late 1970s had been stillborn, even as it was indeed part of an officially sanctioned Conference proceedings. No single day passed we had not yearned for unity and integration of our dear country Nigeria. We had not attained it.
Not that we had not tried. But we had not succeeded. The unremitting effort, curiously began with the breaking up of Nigeria into pieces to weather domination. First, the three regions inherited from colonialism, the North, West and East in which the North preponderantly dominated the two (later four) other regions, was broken up into six, with another six in the south, making twelve in 1967; going to 19 in 1976, 21 in 1987, 30 in 1991 and 36 in 1996; plus the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, which brings to 37, the total number of units enjoying same status in all respects, especially allocation of federal resources.
We had inaugurated a National Youth Service Corps Scheme in which our youths spend the first year of their life after graduating, giving free service in state outside state of their birth. We have moved the Capital base of our Federation from Lagos in the Southwest corner of the country to the centre of the country, to Abuja, so that all Nigerians will be near enough to it, and will have a sense of belonging. Free movement of people; freedom of self-expression and freedom of possession is guaranteed to every Nigerian wherever he chooses to stay. All the ingredients of unity and integration of our country are there on the ground. But we failed to unite and integrate.
There is no better attestation to this fact than the convening of this Conference, the National Political Reform Conference. Disunity and disintegration, instead of unity and integration is the phobia on everybody's mind. Therefore the problem of unity and integration of our country must now be tackled forcefully, scientifically and permanently. I do not believe this Conference is capable of, or prepared to do this. It is not because the conferees lack the skill, the competence or the knowledge to do this. If anything, by age and collective experience, one must grant them that. One's only fear is that it is very difficult to undo what you have yourself done - just as it is very difficult for most people to apologise! Most of the conferees belong to the class who were running the country and they cannot absolve themselves now that they had run the country aground.
But more seriously, my main fear is that the right perspectives and means are not given to the conferees. If you say their responsibility is to reinvent and reconstruct Nigeria, then it is obvious that you cannot use the same tools and moulds which destroyed Nigeria, to reinvent and reconstruct Nigeria! For instance, the road map given the conferees accepts Nigerian Federalism as sacrosanct, irrevocable, irreducible. Given our history and circumstances today, I will grant that. But we Nigerians must be patriotic and forward looking enough to believe that a federation can morph into a unitary system if the right orientation exists, right facilitations are provided, and the right framework is established and supported.
The framework now provided the Conference is unequivocably federalist. The geo-political framework offered are also the State and Local Government areas. This may also had to be. But within these frameworks the elements that constitute governance can either be dynamic or static. The geo-political elements are obviously static not quite so the process of governance. A combination of dynamic elements can be applied and manipulated to not only produce a stable federation, but also create a possibility of transition to unitarism. If you take the two yearned for objectives of the polity, unity and integration, integration has more positive and dynamic capability. In social situations both assume interactive activity. In the case of integration, a sort of morphing in computer language, takes place, actually known as anthromorphing. In anthropological language, integration suggests that various peoples of Nigeria, in pursuing their daily lives, are actually interpenetrating into each other (morphing) in the course of which a new Nigerian is being born.
Of course, in practical terms we know that this is not what is happening. What is happening is, no matter how Nigerians penetrate into each other's territory they try to maintain their separate identities. Sabo, the Hausa quarters in Ibadan and Hausari quarters in Maiduguri indicate to us that in both, and all such cases, the Hausa immigrants had succeeded in maintaining their Hausa identity. But the social anthropologists who studied such cases have shown to us that this is not due to the immutability of the people, the Hausa immigrants in this case, but due to the circumstances of their existence. At the initial stage they were and indeed seen by their host communities as aliens.
As agents in the long distance trade that linked their home base and their home of business, they need to maintain their goodwill with their home base, but also to devise means of protecting themselves where they are living. To preserve themselves and their identity clinging to each other is the most obvious way open to them, as then and up to now, government has no policy of protecting aliens in host communities. If we want seriously to promote unity and integration in Nigeria, these are the issues we must address sincerely, adequately and methodically. The mechanics of doing this must obtain adequate _expression in our Constitution, so that they are not left to the whims and caprices of men of power.
But the business of reinventing and reconstructing Nigeria goes far beyond solving in-migration problems. Accepting integration as a morphing process, we now have to reconstruct our Constitution to place integration as its central purpose and main business of governance. We must start with the in-migrants. If circumstances had enabled them to be integrated (i.e., morphed with their host communities) there would have been no question of indigene/settler problem, as it had happened on the Plateau with disastrous consequences, after the settlers having had lived and interacted with their host community for over 100 years. Indeed, as the Hausa migrants themselves would say, they only mingled; they did not mix (zaman wake da shinkafa) like rice and beans.
All over Nigeria, that is the pattern. There is no need to be so. It is so because government had not seen it fit to place on ground rules and regulations, including incentives, rewards and punishments that would make the integration of our people a reality, wherever they are staying, and with whomever they are staying. Even the National Youth Service Corps Scheme, which was specifically designed to foster the desired integration has woefully failed after more than 30 years of its existence. It is now pitching itself towards a more serious disaster as the more serious states are said to be potching on the qualified professionals from other states like doctors and quantity surveyors into their services, while these other states are sinking deeper into the morass of underdevelopment, just for the lack of same.
All these antithetical occurences will stop, or at least be minimised, if we put the pendulum at the right point between six or seven constitutional and developmental strategies, which we had hitherto ignored or wrongly applied, with the disastrous consequences of disunity and lack integration, which we are reaping now.
Our constitutional and developmental strategic choices lie between the
following pair of concepts, among which we have to make the right choice, or get
the right mix:
1. Centre - State relations (power sharing)
2. Region (State) - Nation (patriotism)
3. Ethnicity - "Nigerianity" (loyalty)
4. Settler - Indigene (Citizenship rights)
5. Efficiency - Representativeness (Federal Character)
6. Home Development - National Development (Residentiality)
7. Religion-Secularism (freedom of worship)
All these contentions, which are real and dangerous, can be solved by taking some hard decisions, which I also consider must decisions. First of all, we must recognise the impact of whatever criteria we pick for our constitutional and national development needs. So far, since our Independence we have overwhelmingly depended on the geo-political criterion for attaining unity and integration, or solving consequential problems arising therefrom. Look at the unending fissiparations that had gone on in the name of allaying fears of domination by this or that, or attaining even development by "bringing Government closer to the people". Today, even if we want to break up, we don't know with whom to break-up!
And the fission has not ended; and will never end, as long as each fission always creates new estates for new landlords! The geo-political orientation stays, and cannot be discarded, if only because only within the institutional framework of geographical space - States, Local Government Areas; etc, people live and development takes place. But it must be doused with socio-economic criteria, because development is for people; not for mountains, hills and dales. In any case, if you hold the geo-political criteria - States, Local Government Areas as supermost, you would always get those who will find it easier to manipulate them than human aggregations. The geo-political units must remain mere administrative units.
We may then retain the geo-political criterion for what it is worth, but must turn our dependence to the socio-economic criteria - people and their health and wealth. We must push our revenue sharing formula to support people even as the geo-political units remain as the theatres of operation. In this regard, one of the most important, urgent and intractable problem we must solve is that hideous settler - indigene confrontation. Also in this regard, the constant refrain by governmental leaders telling us that a Nigerian is free to live anywhere he likes, earn wealth, build properties, is only good as rhetoric. The Constitution itself had given it validity. But it is the one problem that had deepened our disunity.
It created the problem of dual-indigeneity, which people seem to enjoy and operate, much to the annoyance and inevitable resistance of the host communities. Our Constitution therefore must be amended to give single indigeneity of anywhere a Nigerian chooses to stay, giving him indigeneity rights only in the state where he is staying. Hence, only his State of residence where he is living and earning is his State of origin. This must be made justiciable, and my long-lost friend, Chairman of the National Population Commission Sunday D. Makama must be made to recast his Census Registration Form, to effectively reflect this innovation. For the avoidance of doubt, what is meant here is that the State of origin concept must be abrogated and frozen immediately, and everybody automatically becomes the indigene of the State he is now staying and earning his livelihood. No more to-ing and fro-ing between the two poles; no more ferrying of personal goods between the two poles; no more marriage between "home-boy" and "home-girl", as deliberate policy of rooting oneself in his so-called "State of Origin". Loyalty must be to where you are staying and prospering; not to where you belong by birth.
The National Youth Service Corps Scheme, which had failed to serve its purpose because of lacking such a focus must now be reoriented, and State Governments must retain at least 10% of those serving in their respective State every year; to remain in the State of their service, not just at the mercy of fate but mandatorily absorbed into the State Civil Service and given all the protection and inducement that could make them accept the indigeneity of the state of their service, in replacement of that of their so-called State of origin. Federal Civil Servants, other than the men of the armed and security services, can be given the option of permanently staying in the station of final service, or return to the State of their origin. Members of the armed and other security services can also be given this option.
All these are necessary because if we say "unity" and "integration", it is
not geographic spaces that unite and integrate. It is people that unite and
integrate. Ibadan will not come and integrate with Kano. Lagos will never come
and integrate with Gwoza, though substantial Hausas and Gwozas are living in
both towns and are making a good life of it. So, if you do not force or induce
them, they will never integrate. Man being what he is, selfish and greedy, he
will always exploit both situations to his maximum benefit. And we will remain
disunited and un-integrated for the next forty-five (45) years. The freedoms
enshrined in our Constitution are worthy, but for the moment are they not at the
expense of our unity and integration? This is also another hard but must choice
we have to make. We have to transfer our loyalty to our adopted State from the
State of birth. To facilitate this State, Local Government Area and township
must be enabled to develop its local resources and attract in-migrants as social
integration index will also attract Federal Allocation. Cynics will say this is
crazy and childish. But the sane and matured one we are using had not worked;
and will never work!
What remains is now to provide the facilitations that will be used to make this proposal work. Since every Nigerian will now be an indigene of where he is staying and not where he was born, there will be no animosity over which part of Nigeria is getting development attention. All parts of Nigeria will, and must get equal attention. That is what we call even development; even development measured in human term. The question is how do we get this "even development".
Well, the Federal Government must take the most preponderant responsibility for it. All States must contribute to a national blue print. To effect this and to ensure implementation, the State Governors; not Ministers, will form the Executive Council of the Federation. For day-to-day policy implementation and supervision, what now passes as Federal Executive Council can be retained as Secretaries of their respective Ministries.
Funding is assured by the provision of Section 162 sub.2 of the Constitution but the Federation share can even be increased as the centre will now assume responsibility for even development, the formulation and implementation of which the President and the State Governors sit together on one-among equals basis. This is not abrogating Federalism because State Governors will still retain responsibility for the management of their States.
This may also be seen as a crazy and unworkable proposal. But it does not seem crazier than the present situation where never more than 50% of the Federal Budget ever gets implemented even as the President puts federal money and development where he wants. This proposal will also douse the "resource control" fire that keeps on raging, and the danger of federating geo-political units, which are always contending with each other for "fair share" of the "Federal Cake", which at the end of the day, never seems to be fair to any of the States.
As responsibility for even development is now squarely placed on the
shoulders of the Federal Government (the centre), jointly formulated for
implementation with the State Governments and Local Governments, all provisions
of the existing Revenue Allocation Formula may stay. Additional socio-economic
indices such as literacy rate, population, poverty rate, social integration
rate, and United Nations Human Development indices rate, must be included to
enhance the principle of even development at the socio-economic level, and to
centre people, rather than regions, as focus of consideration. The Constitution
should be amended as, and where should be so that the heat can be taken out of
the present geo-political confrontations, which solved no problem, but kept on
raging ever since the break up of the former regions in 1967 to allay the fear
of "Northern Dominion"! Now, the 'monolithic North" is no more, but the demand
for more States, Local Governments, etc keep on coming, which means our
long-standing approaches never solved any problems, and we must try other ones,
no matter how hard and crazy they are!
The conferees to this National Political Reform Conference should not shy away from this responsibility of theirs. This time, we must get it right.
Professor Tijani, a consultant to The Guardian Editorial Board, is with the Department of Public Administration, University of Maiduguri.